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American Forces Press Service

DOD, Japan Move Forward on Osprey Fleet Upgrade

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2012 – Working closely with the Japanese government, the Defense Department will replace CH-46 helicopters used by the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa with MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft for operations beginning in August.

Recent mishaps involving an MV-22 and a CV-22 aircraft raised concerns about the fleet upgrade by the governor of Okinawa, according to Pentagon Press Secretary George Little. Senior DOD officials briefed a Japanese delegation on the incidents at the Pentagon June 22.

On April 11 in Morocco, an MV-22 crashed while taking part in a bilateral military exercise. There were no casualties. Flight data indicates the aircraft performed as expected. In a statement, DOD said the U.S. Marine Corps determined the aircraft did not suffer a mechanical or material failure and there were no problems with the aircraft’s safety.

Earlier this month, a CV-22 crashed during a training mission in Navarre, Florida, leaving five crew members injured. A preliminary review uncovered no information that would preclude the aircraft’s continued operation, DOD said.

The Defense Department, including senior U.S. Air Force leaders, stands behind the CV-22's reliability and is convinced the aircraft is safe for operation, officials said.

The MV-22 Osprey operates with the speed and range of a turboprop, the maneuverability of a helicopter and the ability to carry 24 Marine combat troops. It travels twice as fast and five times farther than previous helicopters.

The Air Force CV-22 Osprey is a special operations variant of the aircraft. It can fly like an airplane and land like a helicopter.

In response to remaining safety concerns, according to DOD officials, the MV-22 will not fly in Japan until results of the investigations are presented to the Japanese government in August.

During this time, Japan will be the only location worldwide, including the continental United States, where MV-22 flight operations will be suspended, officials said.

The MV-22 Osprey has an excellent safety record and has logged more than 115,000 flight hours, officials said. About a third of those flight hours were flown during the last two years.

The Osprey achieved these flight hours performing combat operations, humanitarian assistance, training, and test and evaluation missions, officials said.

Basing the Osprey in Okinawa, according to the DOD statement, will strengthen the U.S. ability to provide for the defense of Japan, perform humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and fulfill other alliance roles.

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